A Great Big City

October 27 in History: The 28 Original Manhattan Subway Stations Open

Columbus Circle Subway Stop
Columbus Circle Subway Stop via robnguyen01 on Flickr

After a few years of testing, the first set of Manhattan subway lines opened on October 27, 1904.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the subway had been in March 1900, and by October 1904, the subway system was ready for the public.

These original stations running from City Hall to 145th Street are part of what you may have heard called the "IRT" or "Interboro Rapid Transit" lines, built and operated by a private company and acquired by the city in 1940. Today, the numbered lines (1/2/3, 4/5/6, 7, and Times Square Shuttle) are the former IRT routes. Some of the major stations (Times Square, Grand Central, Union Square) were among the oldest and today are some of the busiest, so you probably use one of the original stops each time you take the subway in Manhattan!

Much was made of the artistic details of the original stations, which included the beautiful but now unused City Hall Station. In the Sun, a special two-page spread ran titled "The Finest Subway in the World Opens This Week", showing illustrations of the stations and infrastructure that made up the new subway. PDF links: page 1, page 2

NYC City Hall Subway Station 1

From the Sun, the artistic touches were seen as a deterrent to an overabundance of advertising:

Each station has its own special artistic touches. There's no room, for instance, for the work of the poster man amid the picturesque arches and varicolored ornamental bricks of the City Hail station. And it will hardly be proposed to hide the Spanish caravels at Columbus Circle beneath the Strength Company's breakfast food.

Learn more

  • Forgotten NY's two-part series going in-depth on the original stations: Part One / Part Two
  • Collected history of the first subway at nycsubway.org
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